Jan 29, 2021: On Depth

I\’m recording a timelapse video right now of Caitlin and I sitting next to each other in bed. She\’s working from home. I\’m doing my thing—reading and writing this. I\’ll post it here in a bit. It feels weird to share this part of myself but… well, why not? (Because our room is a disgusting mess; there\’s a beer can in the shot from the night before last and more hidden out of view.) We\’re in need of cleaning…

It\’s 10am. At 1pm I\’ll go to a friends house in West Seattle. Kris (and Will) will be there. Will has a nice mirrorless digital camera that he\’s using to take video. Apparently he was involved in film production somehow and he wants to learn how to do more stuff so he can stop paying other people do that stuff. Anyway, he\’s going to film me, wearing his helmet and jacket, riding his bike. And. Um. His bike is a Ducati Hypermotard, which has 2x as much horsepower as my bike. It\’s intimidating. And I can\’t fucking wait. 

I\’ve been slowly working my way through The Listening Society. I\’ve said this before, I forget where: This book feels like a capstone to so much of my reading, neatly tying so much of what I\’ve been trying to put into words, and it does it in relatively simple language. 

There are a few chapters dedicated to what the author(s) call Depth. I needed a new understanding of this word. According to Hanzi, depth is the capacity for a person to subjectively experience—to feel—high states of being and low states of being,. to feel really good and really bad, but in a more religious sense—to travel between heaven and hell in one\’s everyday life

Depth isn\’t a good thing or a bad thing. It\’s not related to how intelligent a person is. It\’s not related to how educated a person is. Depth is the intensity of the high and low feeling—and not just low or high, it is the total distance both, the distance between an ocean trench and a mountain peak. 

Hanzi pokes fun at Eckhart Tolle, which made me giggle. I fucking hate Tolle. Tolle is a quasi-religious figure. And I could not figure out why I hated him so much until now. It\’s because he has great depth, but he\’s really unsophisticated. He thinks flowers are enlightened plants and that we can stop suffering in this world by \”spreading light\”. But it\’s like dude, you\’re forgetting about a lot of things—politics, sociology, economics, epidemiology, natural environmental disaster etc. Providing one single answer—kindness, awareness, \”light\”, healing, or love—doesn\’t solve anything no matter how hopeful it feels.

Anyway, everyone has a different level of depth, but the problem is that we can\’t see other people\’s depth because we can\’t experience exactly what they experience. We all feel that we\’re a walking mystery, a special black box. 

This is one of those rare \”intellectual books\” that handles the nature of religious experiences in a way that really does them justice. There\’s value in that.

Hanzi also has a good definition of wisdom: a combination of good mental health, depth, and complexity (in my words, intellectual-sophistication). 

Here are relevant quotes:

\”Depth is a person’s intimate, embodied acquaintance with subjective states. A person’s inner depth increases through her felt, lived and intuitive knowledge of a new subjective state (lower or higher than previously experienced)—and when the intimate acquaintance of that state becomes an integrated part of her psychological constitution; a part, if you will, of her personality.\”

\”…another way of describing the matter is that depth is a person’s innermost recognition of the greatness and/or seriousness of reality. As with subjective states we don’t have the relevant data, which means that we cannot say very much about how depth is distributed in a population.\”

\”A great-depth response involves yet more universal values which do not necessarily correspond to aspects of everyday life: to manifest divinity in the world, to find radical acceptance, to serve the becoming of the most profound possible unity and multiplicity, to surrender fully and without compromise to God or existence, to “be” wordless emptiness and recognize the pristine meaninglessness of the ultimate truth.\”

\”Beauty, in this sense, is a kind of recognition. We recognize things such as harmony, balance, proportionality, contrast, pattern, variation, rhythm, repetition; aspects of the world that we spontaneously seem to appreciate. We appear to be able to deepen our relationship with reality by expanding this recognition.\”

\”I would like to suggest that there are three specific forms of inner depth that a person can develop. These follow the fundamental philosophical form of Plato’s “big three”: beauty, truth and justice. Although in this context I have found it more appropriate to speak of the three categories beauty, mystery and tragedy.\”

\”But for all its blinding beauty and mysterious elegance, the universe is always broken. We have already discussed that our planet is perpetually screaming into the silence of the surrounding cold, empty cosmos. All systems, all living organisms, are always falling apart. A million things always can, and always will, go horribly wrong. […] If there is a fundamental divide between the innocence of (healthy) childhood and the maturity of adulthood, it is that children live in blissful unknowing of the utter tragedy of existence, whereas the (spiritually mature) adult lives in full awareness of suffering.\”

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